Stephen F Austin to Mary Austin Holley, 07-19-1831
Summary: His labors and responsibilities to settlers; plans for Texas; immigration strong; indented servants. Slavery must be settled positively.
San Felipe de Austin,
My Dear Cousin
I see by your letter to Henry that you are looking towards Texas,
and have even made up your mind for a permanent removal to this
Colony. It is needless for me to say that I shall be happy to see
you here and anxious to serve you, for I hope you are satisfied of
that fact without any assurance from me. You will think us
somewhat in the wilderness perhaps; but our ideas on this as well as
on most matters, are comparative, and dependent on habit and
disposition. To me, this country does not
now seem like a wilderness.
I saw it ten years ago when it was so in fact. Most of the habits
acquired in what is called civilized and refined society, which I once
may have had, have pretty much worn off long since; though I do
not wish you to understand that I have become a bear, or a Comanche:
And the strongest proof I can give that I have not is, that the idea
of your removal here, and of the society which will of course spring
up under the influence of your wand, gives me more real pleasure
than anything which has occurred for some years.
May we not form a little world of our own where neither the
religious, political, or
money-making fanaticism, which are throwing
the good people of our native country into all sorts of convulsions,
shall ever obtain admission? Some philosopher, or dreamer, has
called man a bundle of habits. I think he would call the North
American of the present day a bundle of extremes—rather loosely
tied together, for they dash round the political, religious, or some
other compass, as it were by fits and starts, without any apparent
Let us unite a few choice families and make a
neighborhood as we
say in this country. Abundance of such substantial and wholesome
food as sound health and useful exercise require will never be
wanting. Most of the things called luxuries are inventions or phantasms
of the imagination. We can invent and give reins to the fancy in
this country as well as any where else; and can supply our own
luxuries in case we cannot get a regular supply of them from Paris,
London, or New York. In short I think we can live happily if we
choose to do so.
The emigration to this Colony for the last year has been of a very
valuable character, in general, and well calculated to advance the
Country. I have lately had many assurances of emigration from
Virginia (my native State) of the first class of people. Many of
the old families of the Old Dominion have planted their tobacco
until their land has become
old, and worn out. Their old pride will new start, and
make first rate settlers; for, in general, they are a high-minded,
liberal, and honorable race, too fond of politics to be happy in any
country, but I hope they will leave their politics behind them, as an
appendage to their worn out land.
From New York the prospect of emigration is good. Texas has
made quite a stir in that quarter—and though some embarrassments
lie around The Galveston Bay Company, owing to their having
mistaken the law, and started
wrong foot ahead, yet I think with
prudence the difficulties can be gotten over, in a great measure, and we
shall have a large emigration from the Eastern States.
On[e] of the strongest proofs of the want of a correct idea of this Colonization business, in most of those who have attempted it, and failed, or met with embarrassments, is, that they should suspect me of any unfriendly disposition toward them, or towards their enterprizes. Nothing can be more unjust, or more at variance with the plainest dictates of common sense than such a suspicion.
I began here,
alone, unaided by influential men,
and almost destitute of capital. With one exception, and of small
amount, I owe no obligations to any one out of this country for
my success, but I do owe a great and heavy weight of
responsibility to my settlers, and to my adopted Government. Would I
be doing my duty to the former to involve myself and consequently
their interests (for circumstances have made their interests and
my acts, even private ones, in a great degree inseparable) in serious
difficulty by identifying myself with the views of an individual,
or a company, who were in any manner in collision with the
Mexican Government? I see by a clause in Mr Treat's letter to
Henry, that the Newyork company charge me with being unfriendly
to them. They know nothing at all of the business they have
undertaken, and still less of me, and the general principles by
which I am governed, or they would never suspect me, or any
permanent settlers of Texas of a wish to keep back emigration or
the improvement of the Country.
The difference between others who have attempted colonization in
Texas and myself is this.
Their object has been speculation only.
My object has always been, and still is, to settle and improve the
country, regardless [of] whether I made a fortune or not.
Judging of my views by their own, and knowing nothing of the
Colonization Law, nor of the vastly superior advantages of my Colony
over any other part of Texas, it was very natural in them to
suppose that competition would be unpleasant to me. They know me
not. If to make a fortune had been my object I should have been
enjoying myself in Europe, or where I pleased, with wealth, and
A moneyed fanatic would say that I have followed a shadow, for
a fortune I have not made as yet, but I shall have a competence and
am satisfied- The credit of settling this fine country and
the foundation for a new Nation which at some future period will
arise here can not be taken from me; and that part of my family
who have ventured to follow me will be sufficiently provided for.
Your brother Henry for instance, has eleven leagues of land, title
indisputable, for it is a special grant direct from government All
he has to [do] is to remove his family here this must come this fall or the
title will be defective; for another mistaken idea of the New Yorkers
is that land can be held here by persons who live in the United
States. This is so far from being true that a man who lives here
and his family is elsewhere cannot hold land except as a single man;
and even that is doubtful, for his domicilmust be here, and that is considered to be where his family resides.
There is a vast opening in this country for emigrants. The old
inhabitants of Louisiana would be well received by this Government
if a number of the French Creoles would apply to the Mexican
Consul for passports to remove to this Colony, or request him to
write officially to the Government in Mexico on the subject of an
emigration from Louisiana it would aid me some in my efforts to
get the law of
Negroes can be brought here under indentures, as servants, but
not as slaves. This question of slavery is a difficult one to get on
with. It will ultimately be admitted, or the free negroes will be
formed by law into a separate and distinct class— the laboring class.
Color forms a line of demarkation between them and the whites.
The law must assign their station, fix their rights and their
disabilities and obligations—something between slavery and freedom,
but neither the one nor the other. Either this, or slavery in full
must take place. Which is best? Quien Sabe? It is a difficult
and dark question.
I am spinning out a long letter, and I fear a dry one. But as you
are about to remove here as a colonist I thought it would be
satisfactory for you to know as much of the matter as possible, and as
some of your New York friends are in the Company operation you
might let them know that their ideas of my unfriendliness are all
Fidelity and gratitude to the Mexican
government; and to he true to the interests and welfare of my colonists.
I will never deviate from this motto as long as I retain my senses.
Within the sphere of this duty any person may command me, but
beyond that I wish to be looked upon as a direct and open enemy.
I will set apart a league of land for you and hold it in reserve